Embassy Attacks

A Reminder About Free Speech

It's pretty much absolute, you a-hole

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the future belongs to you

I stopped thinking people who wrote about things like free speech read the rudimentary texts through which the roots of those rights run a long time ago. Given some of the absurd attacks on the near-universality of the right to free speech in light of the use of an anti-Islamic video that ignited anti-American protests around the Muslim world as a stand-in by the U.S. government for any of its own actual policies or actions that might have fueled and sustained such protests as seen over the last two weeks, here is a relevant passage on why the right to express an opinion is a much more precious (not to mention real!) one than the right not to be offended, from Jon Stuart Mill's "On Liberty":

The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by when any defence would be necessary of the "liberty of the press" as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government. No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preceding writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place. Though the law of England, on the subject of the press, is as servile to this day as it was in the time of the Tudors, there is little danger of its being actually put in force against political discussion, except during some temporary panic, when fear of insurrection drives ministers and judges from their propriety; and, speaking generally, it is not, in constitutional countries, to be apprehended that the government, whether completely responsible to the people or not, will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of the public.

Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

How far we've gone in our understanding!

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  1. Bets on how much longer we’ll have free speech in America?

    I’ll bet fifty bucks we don’t make it til the end of this decade.

    1. I doubt they’ll go after “free speech” too much. What’s the point? The establishment already controls the debate, both figuratively and literally (as we see with the Johnson exclusion).

      1. Because, eventually, both Teams want to make it a crime to publicly criticize them.

        Also, the Fuck You, That’s Why School of Governance.

        1. You’re an idiot.

          Free Speech may be the only thing the left and right agree on.

          1. CITIZENS UNITED MUST GO!!!1!@

            /leftist twat

            1. Speech codes are such a fine monument to free speech, as is the Fairness Doctrine. Damn those Bushpigs for pushing both!

              1. needs moar christfags

          2. Free Speech may be the only thing the left and right agree on.

            You’re unwittingly correct about that, Shrike.

            I’ll let you marinate on your own words for a while.

          3. Sure, so long as you’re not working for a corporation (excluding unions and traditional media other than Fox); and so long as you aren’t in the vicinity of an opposition politician while cameras are rolling during campaign season; and provided that your speech is neither offensive, nor unpatriotic, nor likely to set daddy jihad off when he’s on a drunk, nor disrespectful to your betters in law enforcement or likely to reveal wrongdoing by same; and so long as your speech does not strongly or persuasively advocate for the repeal or reform of a policy or institution that the state has deemed necessary for national security or a compelling public interest or which is critical to their continued access to superior social status, income, and power, then they’re agreed.

  2. Don’t miss Eric Posner’s genius contribution to the debate. As Balko tweeted, “If someone chokes, asphyxiates and dies while laughing at the Twitter response to Eric Posner, he should be banned from ever writing again.”

    1. Ace Buzby

      If I refuse to allow you to post your video on my website, that doesn’t violate anyones free speech.

      The video in question should be banned from all major sites on the internet, by the owners of those sites. Why would any of them want to host it? People who want to spread the video around can post it on their little hate websites and anywhere else that doesnt care about hosting idiotic baloney.

      Allowing free speech does not mean everyone has to give you a megaphone for your speech.

      Bets on which Team this cretin pitches;/catches for?

      1. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable sentiment and totally consistent with libertarianism. No big shock you’re not thinking your own beliefs through.

        Libertarians probably are for less free speech in the way they’re for less freedom in general, since they universally don’t think the sentiments behind constitutional protections should apply in the private sector. What do libertartians think of private-sector whistleblower protections, for example?

        1. Re: Tony,

          Libertarians probably are for less free speech in the way they’re for less freedom in general, since they universally don’t think the sentiments behind constitutional protections [???] should apply in the private sector.

          Constitutional protections were placed to protect us from government.

          What do libertartians think of private-sector whistleblower protections, for example?

          Where is such protection in the Constitution? You decided to bring “constitutional protections” up, now it’s your turn to oblige.

          1. There isn’t one. It’s a freedom we have to invent via laws. You’re rights-minimalists because you think employers, under whom most people serve most of their waking lives, should be allowed to be autocrats.

            1. Re: Tony,

              There isn’t one. It’s a freedom we [sic] have [sic] to invent [sic, sic SIC!] via laws [gasp! SIC!].

              Yeah. That’s just one way of saying that you’re making shit up as you go along.

              You’re rights-minimalists because you think employers, under whom most people serve most of their waking lives, should be allowed to be autocrats.

              Walmart feels that way when I decide to ditch them and go to Target: “Oh, what an autocrat this guy is!”

              By the way, saying that I’m a “rights-minimalist” is nothing more than your showcasing of your little understanding of rights. Just for starters, nobody has a right to employment – NOBODY. It’s not your money, Tony; it’s your employer’s. Just like it is NOT Walmart’s money, it’s YOURS.

            2. Tony, you clearly don’t believe that “the sentiments behind constitutional protections should apply in the private sector.” Where is my employer’s freedom of association?

              And don’t give me some corporate personhood bullshit. Imagine you work for a small business, just one guy.

              1. Every time someone presents well-reasoned arguments pointing out the flaws in his disingenious bullshit, Tony mysteriously disappears like Carmen Sandiego, only to reappear on another thread to screech the same tired lies over and over.

                DO IT ROCKAPELLA!

              2. Your employer has freedom of association, and every other constitutional freedom there is, assuming, as you suggest we do, we’re talking about a person.

                If we’re talking about the government-invented entity known as a corporation, that’s different. Or it should be.

            3. The guy who thinks property rights vanish as soon as someone makes a buck is calling others autocrats. How rich. So if I report you committing a crime in your house, I should be allowed to stay there any time I want, right?

              1. Someone apparently taught him this word recently. He’s just started using it a lot.

                1. Someone apparently taught him this word recently. He’s just started using it a lot.

                  Tony tends to parrot whatever his idiot college professors tell him in class.

                  1. Rare among my thoughts, the idea that libertarians are rights-minimalists is something I came up with on my own, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m ignorant of thinkers who’ve expressed the same idea.

                    It means you reject most of the rights people have asserted and claimed over the past century, many of which don’t even require any tax collection.

                    1. It means you reject most of the rights people have asserted and claimed over the past century, many of which don’t even require any tax collection.

                      Says the war monger who votes to throw minorities* in prison for vicitmless crimes.

                      *And if that young minority wants to work a job, ol’ tony thinks his meager pay should go to old rich fucks like Mitt Romney.

                      I really think that you should stop trying to help people, it’s killing us. Not that I actually think that you are stoopid enough to believe that the policies you advocate help people. Strip away the ersatz empathy and a heartless fascist lies in wait.

            4. We thing that should be allowed to act as autocrats. At the same time, we don’t necessarily think they should act as autocrats.

              If I was an employer, I would probably run a fairly “libertarian” workplace, at least in terms of speech and dress code.

              1. Since most people work for someone for a living, and since you insist they do in order to feed themselves–asserting that capitalism must be imposed on us–I don’t think it’s much to ask for minimum workplace standards and workers’ rights.

                Rights as being only antigovernment force fields are fine, but most people don’t spend most of their lives interacting directly with government. They live most of their lives working for some guy. If rights have a point then it seems logical that they would be available as much as possible.

                You believe employer rights should be able to serve to completely eliminate all employee rights. There’s no rights ethics that requires this. It’s just stacking the deck.

                1. What about the worker’s right to keep the money he earns?

                2. Re: Tony,

                  Since most people work for someone for a living,

                  Everybody works for someone else, for a living. It’s called “the market” and “mutually beneficial trades.”

                  I don’t think it’s much to ask for minimum workplace standards and workers’ rights.

                  You’re halfway right – you don’t think.

                  You can only have a right to something you already have: your life, your freedom and your property. That’s it. Same thing for the employer. This is why there’s trade, so you can obtain that which you desire from others that does not involve thievery.

                  most people don’t spend most of their lives interacting directly with government.

                  Most people’s homes are not burglarized, yet that does not give validity to the contention that burglarizing is not evil only because it’s rare. It also does not mean that the people that do the paid landscaping or home repairs, for you, own your house. Same with employees – they do not own their “jobs.”

                  You believe employer rights should be able to serve to completely eliminate all employee rights.

                  There is NO such thing as “employer” or “employee” rights. Only those that exist by virtue of our humanity: Life, Freedom and Property.

                3. “Since most people work for someone for a living, and since you insist they do in order to feed themselves…”

                  No, I think we insist that if someone chooses not to live by the fruits of their own labor that they have no right or reasonable expectation to live off the fruits of other people’s labor.

      2. In the last few decades, conservatives have discovered in its uncompromising text? “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”?support for their own causes. These include unregulated campaign speech, unregulated commercial speech, and limited government.

        So he lists “limited government” as if it were a bad thing. Guess he wants to live in Cuba or China.

    2. “The vile anti-Muslim video shows that the U.S. overvalues free speech”

      The vile Crucifix in piss would not, I guess.

      Freedom is in the eye of the authoritarian and asshole beholder, I imagine.

    3. Best/worst part:

      But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world?and not just Muslims?see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.
      Despite its 18th-century constitutional provenance, the First Amendment did not play a significant role in U.S. law until the second half of the 20th century. The First Amendment did not protect anarchists, socialists, Communists, pacifists, and various other dissenters when the U.S. government cracked down on them, as it regularly did during times of war and stress.

      I think what he meant to say is, “Despite its 18th-century origin, politicians have long seen fit to ignore the first amendment and persecute undesirables who attempted to exercise their rights to free speech.”

      1. the First Amendment did not play a significant role in U.S. law until the second half of the 20th century

        So the editors took the day off when he wrote this, I imagine.

        1. I know. I’m an editor myself and shit like this makes my skin crawl. Be professionals, people.

    4. But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world?and not just Muslims?see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.

      Fuck you no we don’t.

      1. For the left, the amendment today is like a dear old uncle who enacted heroic deeds in his youth but on occasion says embarrassing things about taboo subjects in his decline.

        Allow me to translate:

        For the left, the amendment today is a concept they held dear when they controlled the debate, but when it got away from them, it became a barrier to silencing their critics.

        Yeah, uhuh Posner, buh-bye.

        I sampled the first small block of comments, and I have to admit I’m pleasantly surprised.

        I’m wondering if we’re winning this debate, but because of the huge pulpit the government and the media has, it just doesn’t feel like it.

        1. But I’m going to keep Posner’s words. That’s right, lefties, you think of the first amendment as a declining, creepy old uncle you’re embarassed by.

    5. Good to see that the Black Shirts think the time has come to stop hiding behind a pretense of liberalism. Please, show us all your true face. I’m hoping that if we can keep a free internet, and a free society, the people who betrayed it will never live it down. Ideally, they’ll just leave rather than deal with the stigma. But maybe I’m overly optimistic .

  3. I may disagree with what you say.

    I shall defend to the death my right to kill you for saying it.

    /”rebel”

  4. OT interview with Damien Echols. Heard some of it in the car. Still pisses me off what happened to them. Also prison guards suck.

  5. JSM’s face looks really lumpy there. Did he suffer from acute acne? Syphilis? Did he lose a fistfight to David Hume?

    1. Most Utilitarians frequented whores.

      True today too.

    2. He died from erysipelas, it looks like it infected his face.

  6. Obama defended the Right to Blaspheme today.

    Hell yes.

    1. Drone strike on the Vatican? Ballsy.

      1. Stampeding cattle through the Vatican? Kin-key.

    2. Shrike, shrike the rambling sycophant
      mere mention of his hero and he’d start to pant
      thinking of dear leader so brown and lean
      up and down his chest would heave

      Oh No! he hears an insult and begins to rant
      but he falls to the ground; as he forgot to breathe

    3. Even as he reviled same and after his administration leaned on Google to silence it.

      Spare us such heroes of liberty.

      1. I am regularly fascinated, I must admit, when the turd attempts to polish the turd.

    4. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.”

      It sounds more like he’s standing with Putin on Pussy Riot. I could be wrong, of course.

  7. As long as we’re on the subject of interesting excerpts from famous writers in famous books about liberty, I was reacing Anarchy, State, and Utopia the other day and cam across this excellent passage, relevant to the “you didn’t build that” discussion:

    “You may not decide to give me something, for example a book, and then grab money from me to pay for it, even if I have nothing better to spend the money on. You have, if anything, even less reason to demand payment if your activity that gives me the book also benefits you; suppose that your best way of getting exercise is by throwing books into people’s houses, or that some other activity of yours thrusts books into people’s houses as an unavoidable side effect. Nor are things changed if your inability to collect money or payments for the books which unavoidably spill over into others’ houses makes it inadvisable or too expensive for you to carry on the activity with this side effect. One cannot, whatever one’s purposes, just act so as to give people benefits and then demand (or seize) payment. Nor can a group of persons do this. If you may not charge and collect for benefits you bestow without prior agreement, you certainly may not do so for benefits whose bestowal costs you nothing, and most certainly people need not repay you for costless-to-provide benefits which yet others provided them.

    …. continued next entry

    1. So the fact that we are “social products” in that we benefit from current patterns and forms created by the multitudinous actions of a long string of long-forgotton people, forms which include institutions, ways of doing things, and language (whose social nature may involve our current use depending upon Wittgensteiiann matching the speech of others) , does not create in us a general floating debt which current society can collect and use as it will. ”

    2. Appreciate the sentiment, Hazel, but this is way…waaay…waaaaay over the average Obama supporter’s head.

      They’re going to read the above tract and the first thing that pops into their one-dimensional brains is going to be…”Roadz!”

  8. I have to admit that I do take an incredible amount of bittersweet satisfaction watching the left play Defense on the idea of free speech.

    That’s right, lefties, you’re on the wrong side of the debate. You switched sides somewhere in the 90s and now you’re getting hammered by people smarter than you.

    1. Switched sides?

      More like true colors finally showing.

  9. Given some of the absurd attacks on the near-universality of the right to free speech in light of the use of an anti-Islamic video that ignited anti-American protests around the Muslim world as a stand-in by the U.S. government for any of its own actual policies or actions that might have fueled and sustained such protests as seen over the last two weeks, here is a relevant passage on why the right to express an opinion is a much more precious (not to mention real!) one than the right not to be offended, from Jon Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”:

    Well I suppose you could call that a sentence…

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